Webinar Recap: How to Engage Donors and Raise Emergency Funds During the COVID-19 Crisis Q&A with Amy Eisenstein

We kicked off the iWave Nonprofit Thought Leadership Series with an excellent webinar presented by our friend Amy Eisenstein. This session, titled How to Engage Donors and Raise Emergency Funds During the COVID-19 Crisis, Amy covered how and if you should be raising money now. She discussed how to leverage the opportunity to build relationships with your biggest donors, and pivot your fundraising to emergency needs.


In case you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording here. There were tons of great questions and discussion in the session, so we took the Q&A’s to share them with you here: 


Engaging with Donors: 

Q: Is it appropriate to ask for gifts during the COVID-19 crisis?

AE: Yes! Not only is it appropriate, but it’s also essential. In fact, I believe not asking is negligent. If your clients and community need support, you should be asking for help right now. 


Q: How can I continue to cultivate relationships and keep donors engaged during this time? 

AE:  You should be calling all of your donors… in batches of 5 to 10 per day. Start with your biggest and most loyal donors. Then call your most recent donors. Work your way through your list. Call to check in on how they are doing. Then tell them how your organization is responding to the crisis and what type of help you need.  And ask for a specific gift. 


Q: Is there any particular advice or feedback that we should be asking of our donors at this time? 

AE: Anytime you ask a donor for advice or feedback, it should be honest and real. For each donor, determine what type of feedback or advice might be valuable. For example, you might ask what type of fundraising appeals they are seeing and finding compelling in their community. Ask how they think you might ask for support from the community.  But, before you do, find out how they are doing. Then, let them know how your organization and clients are doing with regard to the crisis. And, always be prepared to share how they can help. (Check out the list of success stories shared by our attendees at the end of this blog post!)

All Hands on Deck: 

Q: What do you suggest to do when your board and board president are not comfortable asking at this time? 

AE: Does your organization need funds or will you be fine without funding? If you don’t need funds, then they don’t need to ask. If you do, and they won’t, they should reconsider their place at your organization. If they are not helping you, they are hurting you.

That being said, if you haven’t been able to get your board asking until now, they probably won’t start now. Rely on staff to do the asking and make sure you are doing the best job you can. 


Q: How should we support leadership and legacy programs differently during this time?

AE: It’s crucial to be staying in touch with your donors, checking in on them, and updating them about what you’re doing in light of this crisis. Keep your donors top of mind, and in the know. 


Events Moving Virtual and Embracing Technology: 

Q: We have an annual event that takes place in the spring of every year. Would you recommend moving this online, or postponing until things settle down? 

AE: I would move your event online. Of the organizations I’m hearing from, they are raising more online from virtual events than they would have raised at their live event. When you move your event online, you’ll significantly reduce expenses, and reduce planning time. 


Q: Our organization is planning on doing surveys and focus groups to see if they’re interested in virtual events. Have you seen other groups have success with surveys? 

AE: Surveys are great for engaging donors and getting feedback. That being said, you need to know what you’re doing and ask the right questions to get accurate information. Would you do surveys and focus groups for live events? If not, why do them for virtual events? 


Q: Do you recommend adjusting giving levels for events that have become virtual?

AE: Check with your top donors to see if they would give at the same levels, or more, for a virtual event, and what benefits they would want for a virtual event. Their feedback will help you make good decisions. 


Success Stories 

At the beginning of the webinar, Amy asked to hear some recent success stories amid the uncertainty due to COVID-19, and we were thrilled with the engagement! Here are a few good news stories and accomplishments that our attendees shared:

  • A small performing arts organization shared “We launched our an emergency campaign last Friday and have raised a little under $20,000 thus far.”
  • Someone from a Family Violence Prevention Centre said, “I reached out to an individual donor just to thank him for his continued support. His business is shut down right now, but after our call, he decided to create a project to raise money for us directly.”
  • A Canadian hospital foundation shared “We received 3 major gifts from first-time donors after the launch of a COVID Emergency Response Fund.”
  • An attendee that works at a Catholic High School said: “We turned our Annual Gala into a successful online Gala at the end of March.”
  • Someone from a public theatre shared: “We held a virtual performance charging $1 for tickets. 80% of attendees added additional donations, and we raised over $1,000 from a single performance with just 50 attendees.”
  • An attendee from a museum said: “We successfully solicited a $50k major gift for a new curriculum program.”
  • “One of our Board members offered two $25K matching gift grants- one for board members and one for our constituents. This match offer has pulled in a lot of new donors!” said one of our attendees that works with a Conservatory.
  • An attendee that works with a human rights organization said: “I’ve been calling just to check in with donors, and have had several major donors tell me they’re sending an additional gift right now, without me even getting to the ask.”
  • “Our Annual Appeal that hit the beginning of March has tripled the amount raised last year.”
  • Someone from a healthcare organization shares that they received a “First-time major gift from an organization we have not been able to reach until now!”


For more information on raising emergency funds through the Covid-19 crisis, visit Amy’s website and join her weekly town hall calls at Watch Amy’s full webinar here. 

Save your spot for the next webinars in iWave’s Nonprofit Thought Leadership Series!





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